A scandal referred to as “Carbonara-gate” broke out this week in response to a nightmare version of the simple Roman recipe that was published on the French website Demotivateur. The one pot dish called for bowtie pasta and guanciale to be boiled together with onions, then was enriched with creme fraiche and garnished with an egg yolk. It turns out that the Italian mega pasta company Barilla was behind the paid content. Needless to say they “encouraged” Demotivateur to remove the offending recipe saying it went quote, too far. I’ll say. Read on to get my basic version of the dish.
My friend Elizabeth Minchilli and I basically make carbonara the same way. The only difference is that I use whole eggs. You might try making both versions on consecutive nights and see which recipe you prefer. I underline her caveat that with such a simple recipe, superb ingredients become more important. For me this is all about great eggs and great dried imported Italian pasta. I prefer spaghetti, which is more traditional, to the linguine that Elizabeth uses. This recipe is an excuse to seek out great dried pasta. (See my suggestions below.)
It might also be the time to spring for those Apricot Lane Farms eggs at Dudley Market or Farm Shop that Jonathan Gold and I mentioned on the show a few weeks ago. As for cheese, pecorino romano is called for. If that’s too strong for you, feel free to mix in some parmigiano. Do not forget the freshly ground black pepper. That is key.
As for technique, I love the way Elizabeth lets the pasta sit for a bit in the pan with the cooked guanciale/pancetta. I don’t bother; I just add the slightly cooled meat with all of its fat to the egg-cheese mixture. Do what feels right for you. Despite the debate about “authenticity” surrounding this recipe I was taught to make it by an older Roman woman who added minced soft cooked onion. So there!
My favorite Italian dried pastas are Martelli, Rustichella d’Abruzzo, Benedetto Cavalieri (try the extra thick spagettoni), Felicetti Monograno and Faella. You can find Rustichella in most “gourmet” food shops and the rest are easily found online through Amazon or Zingerman’s. If you’re local, check out Guidi Marcello in Santa Monica which has a great inventory of excellent dried pastas. Surfas carries Felicetti Monograno and Rustichella d’Abruzzo, and Sur la Table sometimes has Benedetto Cavalieri
Go forth and cook!